Monday, August 06, 2012

Curiosity Costs

I wanted to explore this a little more, "In case you missed it earlier - Curiosity cost $2.5B. Americans spend $7B on potato chips annually. To say we can't afford this is nonsense".

NASA Budget: Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) project says "The current life cycle cost is estimated at $2,476.3 million." But you have to realize, the program started in 2003 and while operations are expect to run just more than a year, there's another 4 years of research after that. That's 14 years. So Curiosity is costing on average $177 million a year.

"NASA spokesman Guy Webster said the rover, named Curiosity, is currently supporting about 700 people, but has supported 7,000 jobs at various times over the last eight years...He said there are currently up to 400 NASA employees working on the project, in addition to 300 scientists outsourced by the government agency."

The potato chip number was harder to track down. It seemed to start in 2010. John Doerr said it was more than $5 billion. Science News said we spend $7 billion. Robert Lehrman said $8 billion. Back in 2008 the BBC quoted former FEC chairman Michael Toner as saying we spent $3 billion on potato chips the prior year.

I think it got most coverage from George Will who in an Oct 17, 2010 article said it was $7.1 billion. What's fun is that almost exactly two years prior, Mr. Will said it was $6.3 billion.

NPR had a report Feb 18, 2011 about campaign spending. "Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay made the case on C-SPAN a few years ago: "There's not enough money in politics. You know, Americans spend more on potato chips than they do on elections?" [Historian Robert] Mutch says people have been using arguments like that for a long time: "Back in the '30s, it was Wrigley's gum." But the argument may need updating again. The American Snack Food Association says potato chip sales are somewhere north of $3.5 billion."

I couldn't find an American Snack Food Association but there is a SFA which is "an international trade association" which I think just means lobbying group as they're based just outside of DC. They do publish a State of the Snack Food Industry Report, but I'm not paying $300 for it.

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